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Sumatran visits a hospital, clinging to hope

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia—Like thousands of other Sumatrans, he spent the week looking for family members who may have been crushed by an earthquake or swept to sea by a giant wave.

By Saturday, Mukhlis had nearly found his daughter. But he feared he'd never again see his parents or his brother.

"My mother, father and brother—gone," said Mukhlis, a 42-year-old history professor from Banda Aceh, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name. "There is no information about them."

He went to look for them two days ago in their seaside village, Lhoknga, about nine miles away.

"There is no village anymore," he reported. "No houses. Only the mosque is standing."

Mukhlis stood outside the military hospital in Banda Aceh on Saturday, where he had come to find his 10-year-old daughter.

"I don't know where she is now," he said. "Someone told me she would be operated on here today."

The hospital's record keeping is primitive. No one could tell him exactly where she was. But he believes she is here somewhere. He believes he will see her again.

When the quake hit, Mukhlis was home with his wife, but his daughter was staying with nearby relatives. That's all he knows first-hand.

His house is still standing, but he and his wife have trouble sleeping inside.

Whenever aftershocks come they run out into the street.

They sleep with several neighbors, 10 in all, who huddle in the same bed for comfort.

"We are worried," Mukhlis said. "Maybe the water will come again. Nobody here is safe."

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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